Many have simply left, and do not expect to return. The tiny Israeli Christian communities live, theoretically, in daily risk of losing their citizenship for renouncing their Judaism. There are reports of many meeting in secret. But there are few, very few, places where Israeli and Palestinian Christians can meet and worship together and share in trusting fellowship. And the immigrant Christians — the Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox, with their multiple subdivisions — are no better, but instead play similar territorial and other battles with one another.
Jesus is not Lord where churches divide along ethnic, tribal, or geographical lines. The second point is that, despite the extravagant claims of some, there is no biblical warrant whatsoever for the suggestion that the reestablishment of the state of Israel in the s constituted the fulfillment of biblical prophecy and that, as such, it should be supported by right-thinking Christians. Galatians is one of the biblical books that most strongly gives the lie to this.
Paul is at pains throughout to distance himself from any geographical or territorial claim; these things are done away with in Christ. Nor is this a mere assertion. The greatest question, of course, which hangs over all Christian thinking and speaking in our day, and which poses an equal challenge to systematic and practical theology, is: How can we speak truly and appropriately of God within a world that has forgotten most of what it thought it knew about God and has distorted much of the rest?
We may remind ourselves of the problem. They assume, moreover, that all religions are basically trying to be about the same thing; this idea is frequently supposed to be a very recent innovation or discovery, but was of course the common coin of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment and indeed has roots much further back in some aspects of classical paganism.
It has collapsed, so it is thought by those who think about these things, under the critique of Marx, who said that talking about God was what those in power did to keep the rest quiet; of Darwin, who said that we were all descended from the apes anyway, and that the world could be understood successfully without a creating or sustaining God, since it works on the basis of competition; of Freud, who said that God-language was projection of a latent father image; and of Nietzsche, who despised Christianity for being wet and wimpish while also exposing its truth claims as power games. Of course, as C.
Lewis used to say, if people really thought about these things, it might become clear that the attacks, though sometimes interesting and important, are not ultimately valid. But most people in western Europe, and many in North America, do not think very hard about such issues. Within the postmodern world it is feelings that count, not arguments; and there is a general feeling, widespread in much though not all Western culture, that all that sort of thing has had its day — certainly in any form that the culture has known for the last several hundred years. Of course, this is not the only side of the story.
Celtic Christianity was earthier, less authoritarian, more in tune with the created order than the Roman variety, and this has made its appeal powerful. But at a time when hardly anybody thinks about the niceties of theology they are prepared to think about nuclear physics, about economics, about anything the media bombard them with, but not usually about theology , it is difficult for many to sort out the difference between the God-language of the New Age movement and the God-language of mainstream Christianity.
The God of whom Paul speaks in Galatians, of whom I have already written at the start of the previous section, is not a private God, to be worshiped by initiates but kept secret from the outside world. This God must be spoken of in the public arena.
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This God claims the allegiance of all, because this God is both creator and lover of all. This God is the reality of which the idols of the world are the parodies But how can one speak of this God without being instantly misunderstood? The story must be told faithfully, accurately, and Jewishly it only makes the sense it does in its Jewish context.
Paul seems to have obtained his not least because of his original appearance in Galatia, which aroused their sympathy and showed them that he was already living by a different way when compared to other teachers and wandering philosophers they might have met. The story of Jesus was being recapitulated through his own actual life — which was why, Paul would quickly have said, the power of the Spirit of Jesus was at work when he told them of the Jewish Messiah, the Lord of the world.
If there is a lesson for Christians today in all this, it is the one that is both obvious and also still sorely needed. Those who name the name of Jesus must be seen to be living the life that results from worshiping the true God. Their own genuine humanity, resulting from worshiping the God in whose image they are made, must be recognizable.
The fruits of the Spirit, when we meet them, are impressive, particularly in our cynical age. If we are to get a hearing to tell the story of Jesus, this is the only way to start. But there is more. The church must be active at the places where the world is in pain.
The church must be in the forefront of work in the world to alleviate hunger and poverty, to remit major and unpayable international debt, to make peace and prevent war. The church must be on the front line in the fight against crime and the fight for proper punishment and rehabilitation of those convicted of crime, as well as for the rights of the victims of crime.
Christians must be active not only in advocacy of the moral standards in which all are treated as full human beings, not as toys or as trash, but also to stand alongside and help those who, having been treated like that themselves, treat others the same way because that is the only way they know.
In the process, though the words of the story remain important and ultimately nonnegotiable, the actions themselves will speak. They will provide, as it were, the grammar book and the dictionary that will enable people to understand that when we speak of God today we are not using the word in the normally accepted sense; that when we speak of Jesus we speak of a real human being in whom the living God was and is personally present, in whom the love of God was fully acted out.
If the story is told with those lexical aids to back it up, it will be understood. People may not like it, but the message will be plain. But now that you know God, or rather have come to be known by God, how can you turn back? We have now arrived back at the point where the detailed historical exegesis of Galatians and the wider theological reflections may, in some measure and very briefly, be joined together.
My overall contention, as will by now be obvious, is that they belong closely with each other, need each other, and are mutually illuminating. It will take an entire commentary to demonstrate this point, but four major features may at least be outlined in conclusion. First let me raise a point of method. Galatians offers itself to the reader as a text emerging from, referring constantly to, and intending to have serious effect upon a highly complex and many-sided social situation.
Those who, like the present writer, work as theologians within actual ecclesial communities for which they have pastoral, organizational, and teaching responsibilities know otherwise. This in no way reduces theology to sociology. Nor does it suggest that theological argument is shadowboxing, pretending to reason something out when what is going on is in fact disguised power play.
Here he tells the story of Israel, the people of God, as the story of Abraham and exodus. God made promises to Abraham, promises that as in Gen. God has now fulfilled those promises, Paul says, in Jesus Christ. Paul utterly discarded the ethnic and Torah-based shape of Judaism in which he had been so deeply involved before his conversion, and to this extent his theology is radical, apocalyptic, innovative, dialectic, and so forth. But all this is held within his conviction that the God whom he now knows in Jesus Christ and the Spirit is the God of Abraham, whose purposes have now taken a decisive turn in which the character of the community as defined by Torah is left behind not, it should be noted, criticized as theologically repugnant.
He tells the story of Abraham, Israel, Moses, Jesus, and himself—Paul himself becomes a character in the narrative, since he is the unique apostle to the Gentiles, a point that is foundational for Galatians—in order to help his readers understand where they in turn belong within the same narrative. Because the letter indicates this as a very basic aim of Paul all through, I am persuaded that he has not simply introduced Abraham, and allusions to other biblical passages and stories, in order to meet points raised by his opponents. Indeed, even if his opponents had never mentioned Abraham, perhaps especially if they had not, Paul would have wanted to tell this story to address and controvert the point the agitators were urging, that Gentiles who wanted to join the people of Israel had to be circumcised.
His way of telling the story of Abraham makes it abundantly clear that the promises God made to the patriarch cannot be fulfilled through Torah. According to Galatians , God promised Abraham a worldwide family, but the Torah presents Israel, the promise bearers, with a curse. God deals with the curse in the death of Jesus, so that the promise may flow through to the world, renewing the covenant with Israel as well.
According to , God promised Abraham a single worldwide family, but the Torah would forever keep Jews and Gentiles in separate compartments exactly the problem of and, we may assume, of the Galatian congregations. God has done in Christ and by the Spirit what the Torah could not do ; ; cf. Paul has other ways of telling the story of Abraham and his family as well e. Third, we can now see that the regular theological dichotomies that have been used in debates about Paul for the last hundred years are in fact inadequate to the task.
Granted that these broad-brush categories are imprecise, there is clearly a strong feeling among Western readers of Paul that one is faced again and again with different kinds of emphases, which may not always be strictly compatible. This works out in Romans, for instance, in terms of the playing off of one of its clear sections chaps. Once we grasp the covenantal narrative that Paul sets out in Galatians as the world he invites his readers to inhabit, we discover that these elements — which appear disparate when seen from a post-Reformation, post-Enlightenment, or postromantic viewpoint — belong together within the much richer tapestry he is weaving.
This is how God is faithful to the covenant. It will take all of the letter to the Romans to set this out in full detail and most of the rest of the NT to explore the point from a variety of other angles, but the major components of the argument are already complete in Galatians. What, fourthly and finally, about justification by faith? This is the subject that most expositors of Galatians have found to be central to the argument of the letter itself.
But what is it actually about? There is no space here for a full exposition of the doctrine. Rather, I wish to pose the question thus: What particular emphases does Galatians, read historically and exegetically, provide in this central matter? The first point we have already noted.
This was not the general, abstract theological issue of, shall we say, how to go to heaven when one dies. It was not part of a theory of soteriology, understood in this way. It was the question of whether Christian Jews ought or ought not eat with Christian Gentiles. In other words, it addressed the question of the identity and demarcation of the people of God, now redefined in Jesus Christ — a question that is both sociological, in the sense that it has to do with a community and its behavior, which can itself be understood by the proper application of sociological methods, and theological, in the sense that this community believes itself to be the people of a God who has drawn up quite clear conditions precisely for its communal life.
The boundary marker of this messianic community is therefore not the set of observances that mark out Jews from Gentiles, but rather Jesus the Messiah, the faithful one, himself; and the way in which one is known as a member of this messianic community is thus neither more nor less than Christian faith. Although this account Gal. But the point of justification by faith, in this context, is not to stress this soteriological aspect, but to insist that all those who share this Christian faith are members of the same single family of God in Christ and therefore belong at the same table.
This is the definite, positive, and of course deeply polemical thrust of the first-ever exposition of the Christian doctrine of justification by faith.
I have already provided a summary account of Galatians 3 and 4, seen as a narrative, or part of a larger implicit narrative, about the promises of God to Abraham and the way in which these are fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah. His emphasis throughout is that the true people whom God promised to Abraham are defined by their faith. The arguments in chapter 3 about the curse of the law, and how it is exhausted in the death of Jesus, and about the apparent tension between the promise and the law, are not primarily abstract statements about the atonement on the one hand and about the existential or spiritual superiority or preferability of trusting promises rather than keeping moral codes on the other.
No doubt they contribute to discussions at these more abstract levels, but such matters were not what Paul was basically talking about. And in the great climactic passage at the end of chapter 3 and the start of chapter 4, the question of justification is set within the narrative about slavery and sonship — that is, the exodus story, in which the key interlocking categories for the present status of Christians are incorporation into Christ and the indwelling of the Spirit.
Rather, justification by faith itself, in the letter to Galatia, is all about the definition of the community of the people of the true God. But it is noticeable that when Paul discusses that question e. This, of course, is the argument of among other passages Romans , and in a measure also Philippians 3. Fully to grasp this, I realize only too well, will demand of those who wish to be in tune with Paul, on the one hand, and to continue to preach the gospel and thereby to evoke and sustain Christian faith, on the other, that they think through afresh the language they use, the passages upon which they draw to make their point, and the detailed theology they are presupposing.
Indeed, when the bricks of the house are taken down, cleaned, and reassembled in the right order, there is every hope that the building will be more serviceable and weather-proof than before. There are of course many other issues that cry out to be discussed. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,.
Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,. Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,. Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
Paul says, did not know their Messiah; otherwise they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But the Church of the Gentiles has accepted Christ and confesses him to be the Son of God, who has been made our righteousness; and this it publicly sings, reads and teaches. Yet despite this confession, those who claim to be the Church kill, persecute and rage against those who believe and teach by word and deed nothing else but that Christ is precisely what they themselves are compelled though insincerely to confess him to be.
For they are in power to-day under the name of Christ; but if they could keep their power without the name of Christ, they would openly declare him to be what in their hearts they think him. They have a far lower opinion of him than the Jews, who at least take him for a thola, a thief who deserved his crucifixion, whereas our people regard him as a fable, like some invented God of the heathen, as can be seen at Rome in the Papal Curia and almost everywhere in Italy.
Since, therefore, Christ is made a mockery among his Christians for so they wish to be called , and Cain kills Abel continually and the abomination of Satan now reigns supreme, it is necessary to pay the very closest heed to this doctrine, and to oppose Satan with it, whether we are eloquent or not, learned or not. For if all men kept silence, this rock ought to be proclaimed by tile very rocks and stones themselves. Hence I am willing to do my duty and let this extremely verbose Commentary be published in order to stir up my brethren in Christ against the wiles and malice of Satan, who in these last days has become so infuriated at the recovery of the sound knowledge of Christ, that whereas it has hitherto seemed as if men were possessed by demons and raving mad, it now seems as if the demons themselves are possessed by worse demons and raving with a more than demonic madness — which strongly suggests that the Enemy of truth and life feels the Day of Judgment to be imminent; a dreadful day of destruction for him, but a lovely day of redemption and the end of his tyranny for us.
For he has reason to be alarmed, when all his members and his powers are so assailed, just as a thief or adulterer is alarmed when the dawn breaks upon him and he is caught in his act.
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For, leaving aside the abominations of the Pope, whoever heard of such an outbreak of monsters as we see to-day in the Anabaptists alone? Truly, in them Satan is stirring up his own everywhere with frightful commotions, as if he were intent on breathing out the last blast of his kingdom, and were seeking all of a sudden, not only to subvert the whole world with seditions, but also to swallow up completely Christ and his Church through innumerable sects. He does not vent such rage on other kinds of life or thought, like those of adulterers, thieves, murderers, perjurers, the ungodly, the sacrilegious, the unbelieving.
On the contrary, he keeps them in peace in his court, pampering and indulging them in everything. I have certainly no wish that the impious should approve of them, but rather that they and their God should be irritated by them; for I produced them with much toil only for such as those to whom St. Paul himself wrote his Epistle — the troubled, afflicted and tempted who alone understand these things , wretched Galatians in the faith. Those who are not such may listen to the Papists, monks, Anabaptists and all the other masters of infinite wisdom and religion, heartily despising what we say and do, without even caring to understand it.
For the Papists and Anabaptists are to-day agreed on this one point against the Church of God even if their words disguise it , namely, that the work of God depends on the worthiness of the person. According to the Anabaptists, baptism is nothing unless the person is a believer. From this principle as it is called it must follow that all the works of God are nothing if man is not good. If baptism, which is a work of God, ceases to be a work of God when man is evil, it follows that the married state, the office of a magistrate, and the station of a servant, which are works of God, are no longer works of God because men are evil.
The ungodly have the sun, moon, earth, water, air, and all that is subject to man; yet since they are not godly, it must follow that the sun is not the sun, and moon, earth, water, air, are not what they are. The Anabaptists themselves had bodies and souls before they were re-baptized, but because they were not godly, they had not real bodies and souls. Similarly, their parents were not really married — as they admit — because they were not re-baptized, and therefore the Anabaptists themselves are all illegitimate and their parents were adulterers and fornicators. Who cannot see here in the Anabaptists, not men possessed by demons, but demons themselves possessed by worse demons?
So also the Papists still to this day insist on works and the worthiness of the person, contrary to grace, thus giving strong support in words at least to their brethren the Anabaptists. For these foxes are tied together by the tails, even though their heads look in opposite directions. While they outwardly profess to be great enemies, inwardly they think, teach and defend one and the same thing against our one and only Savior Christ, who alone is our righteousness. Let him who can, then, hold fast to this one article; and let the rest, who make shipwreck, be driven by the wind and waves until they either return to the ship or swim to the shore.
But more about the Anabaptists another time, if the Lord Christ wills. One generation passes, another comes. If one heresy dies, another springs up, for the devil neither slumbers nor sleeps. I myself — although I am nothing — who have now been in the ministry of Christ for twenty years, can testify that I have been attacked by more than twenty sects, of which some have entirely perished, while others still show signs of life, like parts of dismembered insects.
But Satan, that God of all factious men, daily raises up new sects, and the latest is one which I should least of all have foreseen or expected. Why, they themselves are compelled to invent revelations of wrath against the wicked and unbelieving — as if the Law were or could be something other than a revelation of Wrath! Such is the blindness and pride of those self-condemned men. Ministers of the Word, therefore, if they would be counted faithful and prudent on the Day of Christ, ought to be very sure that St.
Let the minister of Christ know, I say, that as long as he preaches Christ purely, there will be no lack of perverse persons, even among our own people, who will make it their business to cause trouble in the Church. And he may comfort himself with the thought that there is no peace between Christ and Belial, or between the Seed of the woman and the seed of the Serpent. Indeed, he may rejoice in the trouble he is caused by sects and the constant succession of seditious spirits.
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For this is our glory, the testimony of our conscience that we are found standing and fighting on the side of the Seed of the woman against the seed of the Serpent. Let him bite our heel and never cease biting; we for our part will not cease to crush his head through Christ, the first to crush it, who is blessed for ever. Wherefore it is very necessary, that this doctrine be kept in continual practice and public exercise both of reading and hearing.
And although it be never so well known, never so exactly learned, yet the devil our adversary, who continually rangeth about seeking to devour us, is not dead; likewise our flesh and old man is yet alive; besides this, all kinds of temptations vex and oppress us on every side. Wherefore this doctrine can never be taught, urged, and repeated enough. If this doctrine be lost, then is also the whole knowledge of truth, life and salvation lost and gone.
If this doctrine flourishes, then all good things flourish, religion, the true service of God, the glory of God, the right knowledge of all things and states of life. First of all it behooveth that we speak of the argument of this Epistle: that is to say, what matter St. Paul here chiefly treateth of. The argument therefore is this.
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Paul goeth about to establish the doctrine of faith, grace, forgiveness of sins, or Christian righteousness, to the end that we may have a perfect knowledge and difference between Christian righteousness and all other kinds of righteousness. For there be divers sorts of righteousness. There is a political or civil righteousness, which emperors, princes of the world, philosophers and lawyers deal withal. There is also a ceremonial righteousness, which the traditions of men do teach. This righteousness parents and schoolmasters may teach without danger, because they do not attribute unto it any power to satisfy for sin, to placate God, or to deserve grace: but they teach such ceremonies as are only necessary for the correction of manners, and certain observations concerning this life.
Besides these, there is another righteousness called the righteousness of the law, or of the Ten Commandments, which Moses teaches. This do we also teach after the doctrine of faith. There is yet another righteousness which is above all these: to wit, the righteousness of faith, or Christian righteousness, the which we must diligently discern from the other afore-rehearsed: for they are quite contrary to this righteousness, both because they flow out of the laws of emperors, the traditions of the Pope, and the commandments of God, and also because they consist in our works, and may be wrought of us either by our pure natural strength as the sophisters term it or else by the gift of God.
For these kinds of righteousness are also of the gift of God, like as other good things are which we do enjoy. For in this we work nothing, we render nothing unto God, but only we receive and suffer another to work in us , that is to say, God. Therefore it seemeth good unto me to call this righteousness of faith or Christian righteousness, the passive righteousness.
This is a righteousness hidden in a mystery, which the world doth not know, yea, Christians themselves do not thoroughly understand it, and can hardly take hold of it in their temptations. Therefore it must be diligently taught and continually practiced. And whoso doth not understand or apprehend this righteousness in afflictions and terrors of conscience, must needs be overthrown. For there is no comfort of conscience so firm and so sure, as this passive righteousness is.
How desperately have I lived! Would to God I might live longer: then would I amend my life. On the other side, Satan abusing the infirmity of our nature, doth increase and aggravate these cogitations in us. Then can it not be but that the poor conscience must be more grievously troubled, terrified and confounded. For it is impossible that the mind of man itself should conceive any comfort, or look up unto grace only, in the feeling and horror of sin, or constantly reject all disputing and reasoning about works.
True it is, that of all things in the world, the law is most excellent: yet is it not able to quiet a troubled conscience, but increaseth terrors, and driveth it to desperation; for by the commandment sin is made exceeding sinful Romans Wherefore the afflicted and troubled conscience hath no remedy against desperation and eternal death, unless it take hold of the promise of grace freely offered in Christ, that is to say, this passive righteousness of faith, or Christian righteousness. Which if it can apprehend, then may it be at quiet and boldly say: I seek not the active or working righteousness, although I know that I ought to have it, and also to fulfill it.
But be it so that I had it, and did fulfill it indeed, yet notwithstanding I cannot trust unto it, neither dare I set it against the judgment of God.
Briefly, [I rest only upon] the righteousness of Christ and of the Holy Ghost, which we do not, but suffer, and have not, but receive ; God the Father freely giving it unto us through Jesus Christ. Like as the earth engendereth not rain, nor is able by her own strength, labor and travail to procure the same, but receiveth it of the mere gift of God from above: so this heavenly righteousness is given us of God without our works or descryings.
As much therefore as the earth of itself is able to do in getting and procuring to itself seasonable showers of rain to make it fruitful, even so much are we men able to do by our strength and works in winning this heavenly and eternal righteousness; and therefore we shall never be able to attain unto it, unless God himself by mere imputation and by his unspeakable gift do bestow it upon us.
The greatest knowledge, then, and the greatest wisdom of Christians is, not to know the law, to be ignorant of works and of the whole active righteousness, especially when the conscience wrestleth with the judgment of God. Contrariwise, works and the keeping of the law must be so straitly required in the world, as if there were no promise or grace; and that because of the stubborn, proud and hard-hearted, before whose eyes nothing must be set but the law, that they may be terrified and humbled.
For the law is given to terrify and kill such, and to exercise the old man; and both the word of grace and of wrath must be rightly divided, according to the Apostle Timothy f.
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Here is then required a wise and faithful disposer of the Word of God, which can so moderate the law, that it may be kept within his bounds. He that teacheth that men are justified before God by the observation of the law, passeth the bounds of the law, and confoundeth these two kinds of righteousness, active and passive, and is but an ill logician, for he doth not rightly divide.
For the flesh or the old man must be coupled with the law and works: the spirit or new man must be joined with the promise of God and his mercy. Wherefore when I see a man that is bruised enough already, oppressed with the law, terrified with sin, and thirsting for comfort, it is time that I should remove out of his sight the law and active righteousness, and that should set before him by the Gospel the Christian and passive righteousness, which excluding Moses with his law, offereth the promise made in Christ, who came for the afflicted and for sinners.
Here is man raised up again and conceiveth good hope, neither is he any longer under the law, but under grace Romans How not under the law? According to the new man, to whom the law doth not appertain. This is our divinity , whereby we teach how to put a difference between these two kinds of righteousness, active and passive : to the end that manners and faith, works and grace, policy and religion should not be confounded, or taken the one for the other. Both are necessary, but both must be kept within their bounds : Christian righteousness appertaineth to the new man, and the righteousness of the law appertaineth to the old man, which is born of flesh and blood.
Upon this old man, as upon an ass, there must be laid a burden that may press him down, and he must not enjoy the freedom of the Spirit, or grace, except he first put upon him the new man by faith in Christ which notwithstanding is not fully done in this life ; then may he enjoy the kingdom and unspeakable gift of grace. This I say to the end that no man should think we reject or forbid good works, as the Papists do most falsely slander us, neither understanding what they themselves say, nor what we teach.
They know nothing but the righteousness of the law, and yet they will judge of that doctrine which is far above the law, of which it is impossible that the carnal man should be able to judge. Therefore they must needs be offended, for they can see no higher than the law. Whatsoever then is above the law, is to them a great offense. But we imagine as it were two worlds, the one heavenly and the other earthly. In these we place these two kinds of righteousness, being separate the one far from the other. The righteousness of the law is earthly and hath to do with earthly things, and by it we do good works.
But as the earth bringeth not forth fruit except first it be watered and made fruitful from above for the earth cannot judge, renew and rule the heaven, but contrariwise the heaven judgeth, reneweth, ruleth and maketh fruitful the earth, that it may do what the Lord hath commanded : even so by the righteousness of the law, in doing many things we do nothing, and in fulfilling of the law we fulfill it not, except first, without any merit or work of ours, we be made righteous by the Christian righteousness, which nothing appertaineth to the righteousness of the law, or to the earthly and active righteousness.
But this righteousness is heavenly and passive: which we have not of ourselves, but receive it from heaven: which we work not, but apprehend it by faith ; whereby we mount up above all laws and works. Wherefore like as we have borne as St. Paul saith the image of the earthly Adam, so let us bear the image of the heavenly 1 Corinthians , which is the new man in a new world, where is no law, no sin, no sting of conscience, no death, but perfect joy, righteousness, grace, peace, life, salvation and glory.
Why, do we then nothing? Do we work nothing for the obtaining of this righteousness? I answer: Nothing at all. For the nature of this righteousness is, to do nothing, to hear nothing, to know nothing whatsoever of the law or of works, but to know and to believe this only, that Christ is gone to the Father and is not now seen: that he sitteth in heaven at the right hand of his Father, not as a judge, but made unto us of God, wisdom, righteousness, holiness and redemption: briefly, that he is our high-priest entreating for us, and reigning over us and in us by race.
Here no sin is perceived, no terror or remorse of conscience felt; for in this heavenly righteousness sin can have no place for there is no law, and where no law is, there can be no transgression Romans Seeing then that sin hath here no place, there can be no anguish of conscience, no fear, no heaviness. Therefore St. But if there be any fear or grief of conscience, it is a token that this righteousness is withdrawn, that grace is hidden, and that Christ is darkened and out of sight.
But where Christ is truly seen indeed, there must needs be full and perfect joy in the Lord, with peace of conscience, which most certainly thus thinketh: Although I am a sinner by the law, as touching the righteousness of the law, yet I despair not, yet I die not, because Christ liveth, who is both my righteousness and my everlasting and heavenly life. In that righteousness and life I have no sin, no sting of conscience, no care of death. I am indeed a sinner as touching this present life and the righteousness thereof, as the child of Adam: where the law accuseth me, death reigneth over me, and at length would devour me.
But I have another righteousness and life above this life, which is Christ the Son of God, who knoweth no sin nor death, but is righteousness and life eternal: by whom even this my body, being dead and brought into dust, shall be raised up again and delivered from the bondage of the law and sin, and shall be sanctified together with the spirit. So both these continue whilst we here live. The flesh is accused, exercised with temptations, oppressed with heaviness and sorrow, bruised by the active righteousness of the law; but the spirit reigneth, rejoiceth and is saved by this passive and Christian righteousness, because it knoweth that it hath a Lord in heaven at the right hand of the Father, who hath abolished the law, sin, death, and hath trodden under his feet all evils, led them captive and triumphed over them in himself Colossians Paul therefore in this Epistle goeth about diligently to instruct us, to comfort us, to hold us in the perfect knowledge of this most Christian and excellent righteousness.
For if the article of justification be once lost, then is all true Christian doctrine lost. And as many as are in the world that hold not this doctrine, are either Jews , Turks, Papists or heretics. For between the righteousness of the law and the righteousness of Christ, or between active and passive righteousness, there is no mean. He then that strayeth from this Christian righteousness, must need fall into the active righteousness; that is to say, when he hath lost Christ, he must fall into the confidence of his own works.
This we see at this day in the fantastical spirits and authors of sects, which teach nothing, neither can teach anything aright, concerning this righteousness of grace. The words indeed they have taken out of our mouth and writings, and these only do they speak and write. But the thing itself they are not able to deliver and straightly to urge, because they neither do nor can understand it, since they cleave only to the righteousness of the law. Therefore they are and remain exactors of the law, having no power to ascend higher than that active righteousness.
And so they remain the same as they were under the Pope, save that they invent new names and new works, and yet notwithstanding the thing remains the same: even as the Turks do other works than the Papists, and the Papists than the Jews, etc. But albeit that some do works more splendid, great, and difficult by far than others, notwithstanding the substance is the same, the quality only is different: that is to say, the works do differ in appearance and name only, and not in very deed, for they are works notwithstanding, and they which do them are and remain, not Christians, but hirelings, whether they be called Jews, Mahometists, Papists, etc.
Therefore do we so earnestly set forth and so often repeat this doctrine of faith or Christian righteousness, that by this means it may be kept in continual exercise, and may be plainly discerned from the active righteousness of the law. For by this only doctrine the Church is built, and in this it consists.
Otherwise we shall never be able to hold the true divinity, but by and by we shall either become canonists, observers of ceremonies, observers of the law, or Papists, and Christ so darkened that none in the Church shall be either rightly taught or comforted. Wherefore, if we will be teachers and leaders of others, it behooves us to have great care of these matters, and to mark well this distinction between the righteousness of the law and the righteousness of Christ. And this distinction is easy to be uttered in words, but in use and experience it is very hard, although it be never so diligently exercised and practiced; for in the hour of death, or in other agonies of the conscience, these two sorts of righteousness do encounter more near together than thou would wish or desire.
Where I do admonish you, especially such as shall become instructors and guiders of consciences, and also every one apart, that ye exercise yourselves continually by study, by reading, by meditation of the Word and by prayer, that in the time of temptation ye may be able to instruct and comfort both your own consciences and others, and to bring them from the law to grace, from active and working righteousness to the passive and received righteousness, and, to conclude, from Moses to Christ.
For the devil is wont, in affliction and in the conflict of conscience, by the law to make us afraid, and to lay against us the guilt of sin, our wicked life past, the wrath and judgment of God, hell and eternal death, that by this means he may drive us to desperation, make us bond-slaves to himself, and pluck us from Christ.
Furthermore, he is wont to set against us those places of the Gospel, wherein Christ himself requires works of us, and with plain words threatens damnation to those who do them not. Now, if here we be not able to judge between these two kinds of righteousness, if we take not by faith hold of Christ sitting at the right hand of God, who maketh intercession unto the Father for us wretched sinners Hebrews , then are we under the law and not under grace, and Christ is no more a savior, but a lawgiver. Then can there remain no more salvation, but a certain desperation and everlasting death must need follow.
Let us then diligently learn to judge between these two kinds of righteousness, that we may know how far we ought to obey the law. Now we have said before, that the law in a Christian ought not to pass his bounds, but ought to have dominion only over the flesh, which is in subjection unto it, and remains under the same. When it is thus, the law is kept within his bounds. But if it shall presume to creep into thy conscience, and there seek to reign, see thou play the cunning logician, and make the true division. Give no more to the law than belongeth unto it, but say thou: O law, thou wouldest climb up into the kingdom of my conscience, and there reign and reprove it of sin, and wouldest take from me the joy of my heart, which I have by faith in Christ, and drive me to desperation, that I might be without all hope, and utterly perish.
This thou dost besides thine office: keep thyself within thy bounds, and exercise thy power upon the flesh, but touch not my conscience; for I am baptized, and by the Gospel am called to the partaking of righteousness and of everlasting life, to the kingdom of Christ, wherein my conscience is at rest, where no law is, but altogether forgiveness of sins, peace, quietness, joy, health and everlasting life. Trouble me not in these matters, for I will not suffer thee, so intolerable a tyrant and cruel tormentor, to reign in my conscience, for it is the seat and temple of Christ the Son of God, who is the king of righteousness and peace, and my most sweet savior and mediator: he shall keep my conscience joyful and quiet in the sound and pure doctrine of the Gospel, and in the knowledge of this passive and heavenly righteousness.
When I have this righteousness reigning in my heart, I descend from heaven as the rain making fruitful the earth that is to say, I come forth into another kingdom, and I do good works, how and whensoever occasion is offered. If I be an householder, I govern my house and my family, I bring up my children in the knowledge and fear of God. If I be a magistrate, the charge that is given me from above I diligently execute.
To conclude: whosoever he be that is assuredly persuaded that Christ is his righteousness, doth not only cheerfully and gladly work well in his vocation, but also submitteth himself through love to the magistrates and to their laws, yea though they be severe, sharp and cruel, and if necessity do so require to all manner of burdens and dangers of this present life, because he knoweth that this is the will of God, and that this obedience pleaseth him.
Thus far as concerning the argument of this Epistle, whereof Paul intreateth, taking occasion of false teachers who had darkened this righteousness of faith among the Galatians, against whom he setteth himself in defending and commending his authority and office. Paul, an apostle not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the father, who raised him from the dead.
NOW that we have declared the argument and sum of this Epistle to the Galatians, we think it good, before we come to the matter itself, to shew what was the occasion St. Paul wrote this Epistle. He had planted among the Galatians the pure doctrine of the Gospel, and the righteousness of faith; but by and by after his departure, there crept in certain false teachers, which overthrew all that he had planted and truly taught among them.
For the devil cannot but furiously impugn this doctrine with all force and subtlety, neither can he rest so long as he seeth any spark thereof remaining. We also, for this only cause, that we preach the Gospel, do suffer of the world, the devil, and his ministers, all the mischief that they can work against us, both on the right hand and on the left.
For the Gospel is such a doctrine as teacheth a far higher matter than is the wisdom, righteousness, and religion of the world, that is to say, free remission of sins through Christ, etc. It leaveth those things in their degree, to be as they are, and commendeth them as the good creatures of God. But the world preferreth these creatures before the Creator, and moreover, by them would put away sin, be delivered from death, and deserve everlasting life. This doth the Gospel condemn. Contrariwise, the world cannot suffer those things to be condemned which it most esteemeth and best liketh of, and therefore it chargeth the Gospel that it is a seditious doctrine and full of errors, that it overthroweth commonwealths, countries, dominions, kingdoms and empires, and therefore offendeth both against God and the Emperor, abolisheth laws, corrupteth good manners, and setteth all men at liberty to do what they list.
Wherefore, with just zeal and high service to God as it would seem it persecuteth this doctrine, and abhorreth the teachers and professors thereof as the greatest plague that can be in the whole earth. Moreover, by the preaching of this doctrine, the devil is overthrown, his kingdom is destroyed, the law, sin and death wherewith, as most mighty and invincible tyrants, he hath brought all mankind in subjection under his dominion are wrested out of his hands: briefly, his prisoners are translated out of the kingdom of darkness, Into the kingdom of light and liberty.
Should the devil suffer all this? Should not the father of lies employ all his force and subtle policies, to darken, to corrupt, and utterly to root out this doctrine of salvation and everlasting life? Indeed, St. Paul complaineth in this and all other his epistles, that even in his time the devil through his apostles shewed himself a cunning workman in this business.
Likewise we also at this day do complain and lament, that Satan hath wrought greater harm to our Gospel by his ministers, the fantastical spirits, than by all the tyrants, kings, princes and bishops that have persecuted it and still do persecute it by force. And had we not watched and labored with such diligence in planting and teaching this doctrine of faith, we had not so long time remained in concord, but among us also there had long since arisen sects.
But because we abide constantly in this doctrine, and it is ceaselessly urged by us, it preserveth us in fullest unity and peace. But others, who either neglect it or desire to teach as they think something more exalted, do fall into various pernicious errors and sects whereof there is no end, and so they perish. We thought good to shew here by the way, that the Gospel is such a doctrine as condemneth all manner of righteousness, and preacheth the only righteousness of Christ, and to them that embrace the same, it bringeth peace of conscience and all good things; and yet, notwithstanding, the world hateth and persecuteth it most bitterly.
I have said before, that the occasion why St. Paul wrote this Epistle, was for that by and by after his departure, false teachers had destroyed those things among the Galatians which he with long and great travail had built. And these false apostles being of the circumcision and sect of the Pharisees, were men of great estimation and authority, who bragged among the people that they were of that holy and chosen stock of the Jews John 8, Romans ff. Moreover, these false apostles, by all the crafty means they could devise, defaced the authority of St.
Why have ye him in so great reverence? Forsooth, he was but the last of all that were converted unto Christ. But we are the disciples of the Apostles, and were familiarly conversant with them. We have seen Christ working miracles, and heard him preach. Paul came after us, and is inferior unto us: and it is not possible that God should suffer us to err who are of his holy people, the ministers of Christ, and have received the Holy Ghost. Again, we are many, and Paul is but one, and alone, who neither is conversant with the Apostles, nor hath seen Christ. Yea, he persecuted the Church of Christ a great while.
Thinkest thou that he would leave his Church in error so many hundred years? Against this vain bragging and boasting of the false apostles, Paul with great constancy and boldness setteth his apostolic authority, highly commending his vocation, and defending his ministry. And although elsewhere he never doth the like he will not give place to any, no, not to the Apostles themselves, much less to any of their scholars. And to abate their pharisaical pride and shameless boldness, he maketh mention of the history done in Antioch , where he withstood Peter himself.
Besides this, not regarding the offense that might arise thereof, he saith plainly in the text, that he was bold to accuse and reprove Peter himself, the chief of the Apostles, who had seen Christ, and had been most familarly conversant with him. I am an Apostle saith he and such a one as pass not what others are: yea, I was not afraid to chide the very pillar of all the rest of the Apostles.
And to conclude, in the first two chapters, he doth, in a manner, nothing else but set out his vocation, his office and his Gospel, affirming that it was not of men, and that he had not received it by man, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ: also, that if he, or an angel from heaven, should bring any other gospel than that which he had preached, he should be holden accursed. But what meaneth Paul by this boasting? Wherefore, let the preacher of the Gospel be certain that his calling is from God.
And thus to glory is not vain, but a necessary kind of glorying, because he glorieth not in himself, but in the king which hath sent him, whose authority he desireth to be honored and magnified. But for his private person he saith: We pray, etc. And this he doth of necessity, to maintain his authority, that the people in hearing this, might be more attaint and willing to give ear unto him.
For they hear not only Paul, but in Paul Christ himself, and God the Father sending him out in his message: whose authority and majesty, like as men ought religiously to honor, so ought they with great reverence to receive and to hear also his messengers bringing his word and message.
This is a notable place, therefore, wherein Paul so glorieth and boasteth as touching his vocation, that he despiseth all others. If any man, after the manner of the world, should despise all others in respect of himself, and attribute all unto himself alone, he should not only show himself a very fool, but also grievously sin. But this manner of boasting is necessary, and pertaineth not to the glory of Paul, but to the glory of God, whereby is offered unto him the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.
For by this boasting, the name, the grace, and the mercy of God, is made known unto the world. Thus therefore he beginneth his Epistle. Paul an apostle, not of men, etc. Against those Paul defendeth his calling, saying: My calling seemeth base to your preachers; but whosoever they be which are come unto you, are sent either of men, or by man; that is to say, they have entered either of themselves, being not called, or else called by others.
These I call such as are of men. God calleth in two manner of ways: by means and without means. He calleth us all to the ministry of his Word at this day, not immediately by himself, but by other means; that is to say, by man.